Harper drops puck at pond hockey championship in N.B.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper dropped the puck for a game in Plaster Rock, N.B., on Saturday as 120 teams competed in the World Pond Hockey Championships.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper dropped the puckfor a game in Plaster Rock, N.B., on Saturday as 120 teams competed in thefour-day World Pond Hockey Championships.

Members of the West Coast Highlanders, from Vancouver, sport kilts as they compete Saturday at the World Pond Hockey Championships in Plaster Rock, N.B. ((Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press))
The tournament, in its sixth year,has brought 120 teams together on 20 rinks. Ithas attracted teams from every Canadian province, as well as 23 U.S. states, and such countries as England, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Egypt, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

Harper, who is an avid hockey fan, told reportershe was there tohave a look atthe tournament, not to talk about politics.

"It's a great tournament that attracts people from all over the world, so it's a great chance to drop in," he said.

Harper is said to be the first Canadianprime minister to visit Plaster Rock, a village of about 1,200 on the banks of the Tobique River in northern New Brunswick.

The teams play on Roulston Lake, which is large enough for 40 teams to play at the same time.

The tournament runs from Thursday to Sunday.

Harper, who stayed for close to an hour on the frozen lake, dropped the puck for a game between a team from Calgary and a team from Plaster Rock.

Hundreds of peoplesaid hello tothe prime minister.

Harper, N.B. premier discuss equalization payments

While at the tournament on Saturday,Harper held a private meeting with New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham, who told reporters after the meeting that the prime minister reassured him that a new equalization formula would notputany province at a disadvantage.

The federal budget, expected around March 20, is expected to address the equalization program that Ottawa uses to redistribute wealth across the country.

Tournament officials said they hoped the visit by the prime minister would focus national attention on the event. One of the stated goals of the tournament is to promote pond hockey as part of Canada's heritage.

With files from the Canadian Press